International Women’s Day 2014 Celebration at ICIMOD


Each year on 8 March many individuals and organizations from around the globe celebrate International Women’s Day. This year, ICIMOD celebrated the day on 7 March to honour, recognize, and promote the role of women in sustainable mountain development in the Hindu Kush Himalayas. In line with the global theme ‘Equality for Women is Progress for All’, the Centre organized various activities, the main highlights of which were: 

‘GReAT’ welcomes all female staff 

The Director General of ICIMOD, Dr David Molden, and other male members of the Gender Resource Team (GReAT) at ICIMOD started the day by warmly welcoming all women staff with a khada to honour and respect them on this auspicious day.

Formal programme

The formal programme commenced with a welcome address by Dr David Molden. In his welcome remarks Dr Molden highlighted the strength of the female staff at the Centre. He said that ICIMOD’s “women staff are vibrant, intelligent and empowered and their roles are incredible at all levels”. He suggested that all staff ask themselves a question: “What do you do differently to honour and respect mountain women and bring about positive change in their lives?” He also reminded staff of the need to achieve gender outcomes as per ICIMOD’s Strategic Framework and Medium Term Action Plan (MTAP) III. He highlighted some of the efforts so far, such as the recruitment of 15 women out of 29 recruits in 2013, the development of women’s leadership skills, the inclusion of women in training programmes and workshops, provisions for recruiting women in leadership roles within programmes and initiatives, and efforts to engage women in value chains. Dr Molden urged all staff to take the lead in bringing about gender positive change.

Stalls by women entrepreneurs

Ten women’s groups were invited to have stalls at ICIMOD on 7 March to introduce their businesses and products to ICIMOD staff. The stalls displayed and sold handicrafts, floriculture, organic food, medicinal herbs, and cosmetics. Dr Molden inaugurated the stalls and stressed the need to link women entrepreneurs with ICIMOD’s programmes and offer them opportunities to network and benefit from such programmes. 

Panel discussion on the ‘Feminization of Agriculture – Opportunity or Threat?’

A regional panel on the ‘Feminization of Agriculture – Opportunity or Threat?’ was facilitated by Dr Suman Bisht to examine the opportunities and gender issues around the feminization of agriculture and possible ways of empowering mountain women. Dr Govind Kelkar, Senior Advisor, LANDESA, India, in her keynote speech, highlighted the importance of fixed assets such as land for women’s livelihood security. Citing an example from Uttar Pradesh, India, Dr Kelkar said that over 90% of women in the area work on farms and provide labour for agricultural production, but only a few of them hold land in their own name. 

Ms Yamuna Ghale, Senior Programme Officer, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, pointed out that it is not the agriculture sector that is being feminized, it is agricultural tasks that are increasingly feminized. She further noted that this is not a new phenomenon. Ms Ghale stressed that myths, such as ‘agricultural land remains fallow if men out-migrate’, ‘land and agricultural productivity decline when the agriculture sector falls into the hands of women’, and ‘technology adoption needs higher education and knowledge’, are affecting rural development, in general, and women’s empowerment, in particular. She presented case studies from several Swiss-funded agricultural projects that reveal positive changes in household food security as a result of women’s access to technical skills and income. Ms Ghale reiterated the need to change agricultural policy and institutional structures and practices to tackle gender issues emerging as a result of the feminization of agriculture. 

Dr Dhrupad Choudhury, Regional Programme Manager, Adaptation to Change, ICIMOD presented a case study on socioeconomic and land use change in the Indian Himalayan region. Dr Choudhury said that the changes, such as from shifting cultivation to commercial farming, the disconnection of youth from agricultural tasks, the erosion of traditional livelihood practices that had strong linkages among agriculture-livestock-forest, land fragmentation, and altering crop types from agriculture to fodder or orchards, are taking place in rural farming areas in the Indian Himalayas. These changes are resulting in food insecurity, the exacerbation of women’s workloads, and the loss of women’s control over, and access to, land for the production of crops, as well as the loss of indigenous knowledge on agrobiodiversity. 

Gender Champions Awards 2014 

ICIMOD honoured five staff, two women and three men, in recognition of their outstanding contribution to promoting gender equity and gender positive change within the Centre and the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. Initiated in 2011, the Gender Champions Awards are an important way of encouraging staff and acknowledging their good work on gender integration, both within the organization and in its programmatic work. Mr Vijay Khadgi, Assistant Coordinator, HYCOS; Ms Nani Bajracharya, Senior Programme Associate, River Basins; Mr Kishor Maharjan, Senior Technician; Mr Krishna Maharjan, Senior Driver; and Dr Uma Pratap, Agriculture and Beekeeping Specialist, Livelihoods theme were awarded as Gender Champions this year. 

School education support for girls

To provide school education opportunities for girls coming from marginal farmer households and landless families, the Centre provided NPR 50,000 in scholarship grants to Shree Jana Vikash Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Jharuwarashi-5, Lalitpur, to support nine girls who are studying in the school. The girls receiving the scholarships are Asmita Tamang and Durga Basnet (grade 7), Asmita Achami, Pooja Dhital, and Chandika KC (grade 8), Buddi Laxmi Waiba, Anjana Bagdas, Sima Purkoti and Goma Purkoti (grade 9).

Staff articles

To mark International Women’s Day, an article by Dr Suman Bisht titled ‘Burgeoning burdens’, which discussed gender issues to do with water and climate, was published in Republica on 6 March 2014. A background paper by Dr Manohara Khadka titled ‘Women and Gender Dynamics in the HKH’, on opportunities, challenges, and ways forward for empowering mountain women and promoting gender inclusive sustainable mountain development in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, was also shared widely with ICIMOD’s contacts.